The Mango Tree by Shveta Thakrar

No Comments

This beautiful story explores the concept of healing much more than the physical body. Shveta shared this is “for Bai and Bhaa, who live in the flat of my heart.”

The Mango Tree

by Shveta Thakrar

“When I was young,” Baa said, “and I lived in Bhuj, my best friend was a kesar mango tree.”

She picked up a mature yellow-orange mango from the kitchen counter and began slicing it with her small knife. Lata could already taste the tangy, sweet-tart juice on her tongue. Sucking on the pit was her favorite thing, even though she always ended up with fibers lodged between her teeth.

In the adjoining living room, the fan whirred overhead, a lazy rhythm that did little to move the humid, stifling air around. Even the ancient window unit didn’t help. Lata gulped down her glass of water and, still thirsty, stared at the luscious fruit.

“These mangoes are nothing like the ones from that tree,” her grandmother went on. “Dry and sour in comparison. That tree loved me.” Continue reading…

The Indigo Ace and the High-Low Split by Annalee Flower Horne

No Comments

We are putting the shine on Issue 6, so while you wait, please enjoy this story that’s…

Part detective story, part family drama, part superhero action, all fun: Annalee Flower Horne delivers the goods and a well-placed Hamilton reference.

The Indigo Ace and the High-Low Split

by Annalee Flower Horne


Izzie Benitez was halfway through her chemistry homework when the red phone rang. She barreled through the coat closet and slid down the banister into her dad’s secret lair to answer it. “Azure Ace’s line.”

“This is the Mayor,” said the mayor, as if anyone else ever called the red phone. “Tell the Ace he’s needed at the Gem Depository. There’s a theft in progress.”


Izzie pulled out her mobile and called her father’s encrypted line.

“Azure Ace,” he greeted, in a voice auto-tuned to booming.

“The mayor called. You’re wanted over at the Coaltown Gem Depository.”

“Are there giant robots at the Gem Depository? Rampaging towards Steel City?” Something exploded on his end of the line.

“No, just thieves.”

“I hope they enjoy their thieving, then.”

“Can I take it?”

“Is your homework done?”


“You suck at lying.”

“Mom lets me fight crime when I’m at her house.” Continue reading…

The Penelope Qingdom by Aidan Moher

No Comments

Childhood is a time for escapist fantasies and sweet friendships. Aidan Moher spins a heartwarming tale about magic real and figurative, the kind that brings two kindred spirits together and links them forever.

The Penelope Qingdom

by Aidan Moher

It was during the particularly frozen-solid Prince George winter of ’91, a few days after the new neighbours had arrived, that I first stumbled into the Penelope Qingdom.

“What are their names?” I asked my moms as they bustled about the kitchen getting ready. They’d invited themselves next door for a “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” dinner. We’d never had new neighbours before.

“Mr. and Mrs…Qw- Qwing?” said Mom. “They have a daughter. She’s eleven, too, so you’ll probably be in the same class after Christmas break.”

“You’d better be nice to her,” Mum muttered as she dug around the fridge. “And, I think it’s more like ‘Sching’ than ‘Qwing.'” Mom made a face and stuck out her tongue. The oven timer dinged—Mom took the lasagna out and put it on the counter. Mum appeared from the fridge with a bottle of wine.

“Can you grab this, Ivan?” Mom said, gesturing at the pasta. “Can’t let it cool.” Without waiting for my answer, she disappeared toward the front of the house to get our winter boots and jackets. Mum followed her with the wine. I wrapped the lasagna in a tea towel, met them in the mud room, and we left the house.

The neighbour’s front door swung open before I could ring the doorbell. A girl with rumpled black hair greeted us. She wore jeans and a knit sweater decorated with the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701, naturally).

“Hello,” she said, her voice like dappled sunlight.

There was a moment of awkward silence. What do you say to a new neighbour? “My mom made her classic lasagna.” Not my finest first impression.

“I see that,” she said. Her grin was challenging and endearing all at once. I wasn’t used to such complexity in a smile.

The girl’s mother came to the door, martini in hand.

“Hello, Mrs…” said Mum, trailing off to avoid an indelicate pronunciation.

“Mrs. King. With a Q,” she added with a flourish—the way she’d probably said it a million times before. “But, please, call me Cathy. With a C.” Her tight blonde curls bounced as she winked with her whole face.

“Why ‘with a Q’?” I asked.

Mum smacked me lightly across the back of the head. “Don’t ask things like that!” she said.

“Hello, dear,” Mom said to the girl before Mrs. Qing could reply. She had an oddly irritating smile on her face. “What’s your name?”

“Penelope,” said Penelope.

“Well, invite them in!” called a man’s voice from deeper in the house. It wasn’t quite teasing, but almost.

Their home wasn’t much bigger than ours, but where my moms kept things spotless, chaos reigned in the Qing household. Respectable, understandable chaos—boxes stacked high in the hallways, furniture covered with old sheets, and walls half-painted; the detritus of an upheaved life—but chaos all the same. I loved it.

“Why don’t you show Ivan the basement while we share a cocktail with his parents, Penelope?” Mrs. Qing said as soon as the front door shut. Penelope’s face broke into a mischievous smile. She grabbed my hand and pulled me through a nearby darkened doorway and down a stairway. Continue reading…

The Boy Who Made Flowers by S.B. Divya

No Comments
Illustration by Wendy Xu

Illustration by Wendy Xu

The Doubleclicks have a song called “Worst Superpower Ever.” Well, Charlie Kim may just have the worst superpower ever. Or does he? S.B. Divya’s floral storytelling will present you with a bouquet of feels.

The Boy Who Made Flowers

by S.B. Divya

When a few stray jasmine blossoms fell from Charlie Kim’s ears, neither he nor his violin teacher, Mrs. Janet Wong, noticed. Recitals were in three weeks, and that was their focus, especially for Charlie. The lovely Amelie would be in the audience, and he did not want to make a mistake in front of her.

Charlie furrowed his brow and bent his bow to the lilting notes of von Weber’s “Country Dance.” Yellow honeysuckle, blue asters, and clusters of pink alyssum cascaded over his shoulders. Sweat, mixed with baby’s breath, beaded on his forehead.

Charlie was so intent on his practice that he didn’t wonder at Mrs. Wong’s dropped jaw, nor did he marvel at the incredible scents rising around him. He finished his virtuoso performance with a flourish. That’s when he saw the multi-colored blossoms surrounding his feet. He looked up, puzzled.

“They…came out of your ears,” said Mrs. Wong.

“My ears?” Charlie squeaked.

He was breathing hard, and now his heart raced. Pure white roses and delicate phalaenopsis sprung from his hands. Smaller blossoms continued to drop from his ears. Pink carnations caught in his throat.

This can’t be happening, Charlie thought.

“You must be manifesting,” Mrs. Wong said. She frowned as Charlie coughed and shook his head. “You’d better calm down before it gets out of hand. Take some deep breaths. I’ll call your mother.”

Charlie had been waiting for most of his twelve years to discover what, if any, special ability he might have. He was hoping for something awesome so he could be like Nawemi Robinson, the war hero with fire-blasting fingers, or, at the very least, like Nawemi’s wife who could heal wounds with her touch.

Instead, as he attempted to survive carnation asphyxiation, all Charlie could think about were the tragic cases of Jasleen Bannerjee—she could summon lightning, but she wasn’t immune to it—and Trenton Smythe, who flew up so high and fast that he shot out to space and never returned. It would be bad enough if his ability were something floral. The idea of dying from it was mortifying. Continue reading…

Ratcatcher by Amy Griswold

No Comments

WWI steampunk airship Ghostbusters. Seriously, there’s nothing more we need to say to introduce this story.


by Amy Griswold

1918, over Portsmouth

The souls in the trap writhed and keened their displeasure as Xavier picked up the shattergun. “Don’t fuss,” he scolded them as he turned on the weapon and adjusted his goggles, shifting the earpieces so that the souls’ racket penetrated less piercingly through the bones behind his ears. “It’s nothing to do with you.”

The two airships were docked already, a woman airman unfastening safety ropes from the gangplank propped between them to allow Xavier to cross. The trap rocked with a vibration that owed nothing to the swaying airships, and Xavier lifted it and tucked it firmly under his arm. He felt the soul imprisoned in his own chest stir, a straining reaction that made him stop for a moment to catch his breath.

“If you’re ready, sir,” the airman said, and Xavier forced himself into motion. He nodded crisply and strode out onto the gangplank with the ease of long years spent aboard ships, his gloved hand just brushing the rail. He scrambled down from the other end and got out of the way of airmen rushing to disengage the gangplank and close the hatch before the two ships could batter at each other too dangerously in the rising wind.

The Coriolanus’s captain strode toward him, and Xavier winced as he recognized a familiar face. He set the trap down, both to get it farther away from the casing that housed the soul in his chest, and to give himself a moment to banish all envy from his expression.

He straightened with a smile. “Hedrick. I see you landed on your feet after that muddle over Calais.”

“I’ve got a knee that tells me the weather now,” Hedrick said, scrubbing at his not-entirely-regulation stubble of ginger beard. “They told me you’d been grounded.”

“I’m still attached to the extraction service,” Xavier said. “As a civilian now.”

Hedrick’s eyes flickered to the odd lines of Xavier’s coat front, and then back up to his face without a change of expression. He’d always been good at keeping a straight face at cards. “We could use the help. We had a knock-down drag-out with the Huns a few weeks back—just shy of six weeks, I make it. Heavy casualties on both sides, and some of them damned reluctant to move on.”

“Only six weeks? You hardly need me. Chances are they’ll still depart on their own.”

“You haven’t seen the latest orders that came down, then. We’re supposed to call in the ratcatchers at the first sight of ghosts. Not acceptable on a well-run ship, don’t you know.”

Continue reading…

Looking for Morticia Addams in All the Wrong Places by Barry Charman

No Comments

If we told you you were about to read a sweet, charming vampire romance that will touch your heart and stay with you for days, would you believe us? Trust us. Trust Barry Charman.

Looking for Morticia Addams in All the Wrong Places

by Barry Charman

  Scarecrow throws my coffin out the window and calls me a jerk.

  After this come my black candles, my silver rings, even my DVDs. In five minutes flat I’m standing in a field of debris, wondering how my life just exploded.

  I like a bit of drama, but this all feels a bit final to me. I sit on the curb and look up to see a cloud glowing as it drifts before the moon. I made a lot of vows under a moon just like that. Not that me and Scarecrow ever got properly married, we’re not exactly conventional. But I guess whatever the honeymoon was, that was it.

  All because I laughed when she put blood in her cereal. Jeez.

  They say love is a coffin made for two, but nobody ever talks about the splinters. I get up and start kicking my casket into a heap in the corner. I pocket a couple of the rings and pick up anything I’ve got a use for. Then I look up at the black window, already closed.

  She never made it easy to love her, but I guess that’s why I stuck around. Oh well. Time to move on. Before the argument, I was able to grab my coat as I stormed out, it’s got all I need in it to get by. That gives me a strange sense of relief and despair. Hell of a thing, a life you can pack into a coat.

  I sift around the rubble a little longer, getting maudlin as I compare our love to a stack of driftwood churned through bloody water. I snap out of it and hit the road. I want to get my head down before sun-up.

  The streets are usually empty this time of night. Well, the night is not what it was. I stop to listen and experience the world around me. A palimpsest of impressions. Shivers. Sounds.

  Ahead, I see two silhouettes dancing under a streetlight. Because the night calls, and all must answer, I walk forward. My curiosity wanes as the picture becomes clearer. A woman is being taunted by a man in black. Dirt shakes from his hair, leaves tumble from his sleeves.

  He is night, and she is day.

Continue reading…

A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters by A.T. Greenblatt

No Comments

We’re suckers for non-hero stories. Not even anti-heroes, just people who aren’t Chosen Ones. People who have to do the damn work. Prince Lir from The Last Unicorn goes out daily to kill monsters to impress his love. Our narrator is someone who will happily laugh when she turns away from the lovelorn prince.

A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters

by A.T. Greenblatt

  1. The Siren

There are three basic guidelines that any idiot can follow when faced with a shape-shifting Siren hell bent on drowning you. One: Plug your ears and sit tight. She’ll tire eventually. Two: If easily visually swayed, use a blindfold. Three: Don’t be a hero.

Which around here is like telling people not to breathe.

The Siren guarding the bridge at the end of the road is a beauty in the classic sense and she’s relentless with all those brave, brave heroes attempting to cross the river. From the way her lips linger over syllables, I can tell she’s singing some slow, breathy song and between the lulls in victims, she brushes her radiant hair with a flimsy dollar-store brush and glares at me, challenging me to approach.

I don’t, of course, because unlike heroes, I’m not easy prey. Instead, I smile at her and wait, sitting in the hot, dusty road a healthy hundred meters away with my headphones turned up to deafening. (I forgo the blindfold because I do have a measure of self-control.) Continue reading…

Fire in the Belly, by Rachael Acks

No Comments

Meet Henrietta, your new favorite preteen space Western thief. She’s all alone on a brand new planet, and she’s about to have a life-changing adventure. Rachael Acks weaves together a few genres in this rip-roaring tale, hopefully not the last we’ll see of this spunky young firebrand!

Fire in the Belly

by Rachael Acks

Henrietta squinted up at the rift ship Phoenix, a skyscraper of blinding metal and until recently the only home she’d ever known, as it lumbered into the sky. Choking clouds of dust turned the sun blood red, but she refused to duck her head or cover her eyes until the ship had become no more than a shining point of light. The wind died down, raining dust onto the landing field, but she kept her pointy chin high and blinked her blue-gray eyes against the sting.

“So this is what bein’ free tastes like,” she murmured, then wiped a swath of dust from her cheek and licked it from her finger. Taste the dirt and know the world, she’d heard the spacers say, and she focused on that instead of the shrill of fear waiting to become full-blown panic in the back of her head. She hadn’t had much of a choice about jumping ship, not if she wanted to keep her skin in one piece. The security boss on the Phoenix had made that abundantly clear with his fist. And so she stood here, wherever that was. “Don’t tell me what this place is called, though.”

Had to make the best of it. Had to keep moving.

A shadow fell over her as she bent to pick up the bundle of clothes at her feet, and someone kicked the back of her knee. She fell on her meager luggage, but came up swinging. “The hell was that for?”

The culprit was a man dressed in a blue suit, the special shade all TransRift employees wore, black tie pencil thin and tacked with a gold four-leaf clover. He wore sunglasses, but she felt him staring all the same, his lip curling up. That was her warning to grab her bundle and scoot. Half a second later, a glob of brown tobacco spit landed where she’d been. “Show some respect, trash muffin.”

She made a rude gesture, dodged another wad of spit. “Ain’t like you’re showin’ any. Got to give to get!”

The man sneered. “Fine words from a damn pocket picker.” He drew his jacket aside, reaching for the smooth black handle of a baton, spring-loaded to break bones. She swallowed back a whimper at the familiar sight. “Get off my landing field before you stink it up.”

Continue reading…

Bargain, by Sarah Gailey

No Comments

People have been making bargains with demons for centuries (in fiction, and possibly also in real life). But this time Malachai, Devourer of Miscreants and Usurper of Souls, is going to get more than he, uh, bargained for. “Bargain” is Sarah Gailey’s first pro sale, and we’re confident it won’t be the last.


by Sarah Gailey

Malachai loved his work. He loved wandering among the trappings of enormous wealth and influence, seeing the baubles that humans excreted to express their status. He especially loved watching those wealthy, influential mortals tremble before the might of his inescapable superiority.

Malachai worked exclusively with those humans who had found themselves at the limit of how much power they could possess. They called him to bend the rules of time and space around their whims, so that they might be even more feared and loved by the other mortals. Their desires were predictable—money, knowledge, talent, authority. These were the kinds of people who hunted down ancient parchments with the Words of Invocation inscribed upon them. These were the kinds of people who did not concern their consciences with the compensation Malachai required for his services.

They appreciated a bit of theatrical flair.

So when he received the summons from dispatch, he responded with appropriate formality. Curling smoke, crackling lightning, the wailing of damned souls—a standard business-casual entrance. He waited for his cue, which was usually the sound of a man discovering terror for the first time in his comfortable life. Once that terror had peaked, Malachai would announce himself. Any sooner, and the human would get swept up in proceedings before their fear really set the tone. Thus, on this and all assignments, Malachai waited to hear the panic and the wailing and the what-have-I-wrought’s. Continue reading…

Sleeping with Spirits, by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

No Comments

This story is not safe for work, children, or jealous lovers.

You could say Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s story has sex but is not erotic. You could say it’s not safe for work but it’s not naughty. You could say a lot of things about this tale of love, intimacy, and then hangups lovers have over each other’s pasts. But what we loved about this fantasy story is that it shows you sex and love as they happen in real life. Awkward. Emotional. Tender. Confused. It feels so real – except for the spirits, naturally.

Don’t miss our nonfiction Story Doctor article by James Patrick Kelly that analyzes this story!

Sleeping with Spirits

by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Nolan had just dozed off when the first spirit arrived. His girlfriend Wendi screamed. “The fuck is it?” he yelled, bolting upright. The covers fell from him. A blue-tinted body floated above the mattress. It was naked. “The fuck is that?”

The spirit looked like every jock in the movies. Broad shoulders, a strip of white across the nose, brown helmet hair. Beefy, not like the ghosts Nolan read about in cheap horror novels, although the spirit’s circumcised penis hung limp. And when this spirit spoke, there was no echo in his voice. All in all, they’d lucked out as far as spooks were concerned. It was difficult to be frightened by a naked man.

“Long time no see, huh, Wendi?” the spirit said.

Nolan looked over at his silent girlfriend. She’d scurried out of the blankets when she’d woken. Now she held her legs to her chest. Her modesty surprised him. He’d known Wendi to strip to her underwear and wade into pools at their friends’ parties.

“Who is this guy?” Nolan asked.

“I should ask the same question. Who’s this bean pole?” The spirit looked Nolan up and down.

“Fuck off,” Wendi said. “What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you since freshman year of high school.”

“Was that a while ago?” The spirit scratched his head. Flakes of transparent blue dandruff fell into the bed. Nolan realized that the spirit hovered right above the wet spot. After making love Nolan had offered to sleep on it, but he’d rolled off and away from Wendi as the urge to sleep dry took over. Now the spirit’s ghostly body seemed to rise from it. Nolan felt a combination of pity and pride.

“Yeah, it was a while ago. Shit, dude, what’s this all about?” Wendi said.

“How long?” the spirit asked.

“Five years ago?”

“How do you guys know each other?” Nolan asked.

“We used to date,” the spirit said.

“Trace was my first. We only slept together twice.”

Right, Nolan thought, his stomach twisting. Now he remembered: Trace. Trace had been popular, a junior when Wendi was a freshman, and Wendi lost it to him in the back of some car. She had wanted, she told Nolan, to lose it fast, without much thought or consequence, and she thought Trace would do it and leave her alone. But he wanted to do it again and again, even when his friends wondered what he was doing with a crazy freshman art girl.

When Wendi told Nolan that story, he knew what Trace’s friends didn’t: that Wendi was something special, the bravest person Nolan had ever met. She made you feel at home around her, like you’d been friends since you were born. You could hear her confidence in her voice. Always lilting upward, as if on the verge of laughter. Except now, with the spirit of Trace between them.

“But you’re alive. I’ve seen you on Facebook.”

Continue reading…